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Guard unit specializing in explosives disposal heading overseas

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PHOENIX – As Sgt. Benito Garcia prepares for deployment to Afghanistan with the Arizona Army National Guard’s 363rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, he said he worries most about the potential for downtime and not being able to help out.

“I know that sounds weird, but in our career field you can’t really be scared,” he said.

Family members, friends and members of the Arizona Patriot Guard Riders were on hand Tuesday for a ceremony honoring Garcia and nine other members of his unit.

They will spend 30 days at Fort Bliss in Texas for the final preparations before heading overseas.

The unit is responsible for safely discovering, removing and disposing of explosive devices for the military and civilians.

All 10 soldiers have already completed one tour overseas and are joining over 500 Arizona Army and Air National Guard members currently serving on active duty.

Garcia was starting his third tour but his first as part of this company.

He was in Iraq in 2003 and 2007 with the Army and California National Guard, respectively. He moved to Arizona because he had family in the state.

Garcia spent nine months in Florida learning how to deactivate explosives.

“Anyone can get a rifle and combat training,” he said. “I wanted to do something harder, something to challenge myself.”

It also was the third deployment for Sgt. Ritz-Tyler Sadang of Scottsdale. His wife, Danielle, said this goodbye is as difficult as the first.

“He was an active duty engineer, now he’s an EOD tech,” she said. “His position kind of moved up on the dangerous chain.”

Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar, commanding general of the Arizona National Guard, said member of the company are “truly experts in the field.”

“It doesn’t make a difference how big the unit is,” Salazar said during the ceremony. “Everybody needs these guys.”